Vale Keith Bain 1926 - 2012
In 'Central Australian Suite', c. 1957 choreographed by Gertrude Bodenwieser. Photo: Maxwell Hynes.
Keith Bain, who died on the July 4, was an extraordinarily influential figure in Australian dance and movement for the stage. He was a modern dancer for Gertrud Bodenwieser, an award-winning ballroom dancer, a choreographer, indefatigable champion of dance in all its forms and – above all – a teacher of generations of students, many of whom became leaders in diverse areas of their profession.
At his funeral, an overflowing gathering of theatre, film and TV people, Cate Blanchett declared: “I am a student of Keith”, stressing the present tense. “Keith’s lessons were life lessons … he was an unforgettable man who helped guide so many of us through adolescence to maturity.”
Another of those students, Baz Luhrmann, tapped into Bain’s experiences as a leading ballroom dancer for a project at NIDA that became the film Strictly Ballroom, returning next year to the stage as a musical. Other students included Mel Gibson, Gale Edwards, Darren Gilshenan, Miranda Otto, Richard Roxburgh, Geoffrey Rush and Hugo Weaving.
Outside his NIDA commitments, Bain choreographed for dance groups, TV, musicals and opera as well as movement in theatre productions. His expertise and diplomatic personality, along with his tremendous enthusiasm and drive, catapulted him into leading positions in dance organisations, some of which he founded or, like Ausdance, co-founded.
In 1986 he established the Dancers’ Picnic, in typical Bain spirit bringing together the practitioners of diverse dance styles, who could be as confrontational as they were contrasting. This was the forerunner of the Australian Dance Awards, which inducted him into its hall of fame in 2011.
This was one of many honours that recognised his enormous contribution to dance and theatre. But his greatest legacy is the philosophy of movement that is outlined, with his memoirs, in Keith Bain on Movement, published by Currency House – and its continuing practice by those he taught.
- JILL SYKES